Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

A Christian Response to EvilGalatians 6:9

This is the third in the series “A Christian’s Response to Evil.”  In this series we are looking at common responses in a season of terror and how we as believers need to be responding.  Last post I wrote that the common first reaction to evil is rage… but how our response needs to be Godly anger or resolve.

In this post I want to address the common response in the wake of tragedy of weariness or compassion fatigue.  The last 7 years in American history have shaken up all of us.  Clackamas Town Center, Oregon shooting (12/11/12)… Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin (8/5/12)… Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting (7/20/12)… Cafe Racer Espresso shooting in Seattle, WA (5/29/12)… Oikos University shooting in Oakland, CA (4/2/12)… Chardon High School shooting in Chardon, OH (2/27/12)… IHOP restaurant shooting in Carson City, NV (9/6/12)… Safeway shooting in Tucson, AZ (Rep. Gabby Giffords shot in the head) (1/8/12)… Fort Hood Shooting (11/5/09)… Virginia Tech Shooting (4/16/07)… Amish Schoolhouse shooting in Lancaster, PA (10/2/06)….  that is just seven years back… and I didn’t include all of the mass killings in the list.

If you are like me when you heard about the Boston Marathon bombing last week your first thought was:  “Again?”  It is so easy to want to give up on caring… to get tired of helping.  Because the tragedies don’t end.

Last Monday in Boston someone literally blew up the finish line.  Weary runners that had been on the course for 4 hours… exhaustionwith the end in their sights watched as chaos ensued.  Have you ever felt that way about life?  You help and help and there seems to be no keeping the darkness back.  Then… there goes the finish line.  You want to sit on the track and cry.  You reach the point that your heart shrinks and you want to go back to caring for  “me and mine” and leave all that saving the world stuff for somebody else.

The Scriptures teach that as believers we are not to “… lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

Jesus taught us to go an extra mile.  Some of the runners at the marathon crossed the finish line and didn’t stop running until they ran to the nearest hospital to offer blood.  Some dehydrated runners in medical tents with IV’s in their arms, ripped them out to clear the tent for the wounded.

Let me ask you, believer… “What extra mile are you running?”  For the hurting, the downtrodden, the exploited, the lost in this world.

Romans 12:17 & 21 teaches us: 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. …21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  The goodness that comes out of you thwarts the efforts of the “terrorists.”  So give, help, serve and love.

How can I help a city that is 1,100 miles away?  You can start by helping your neighbor across the street.  Don’t lose heart… instead offer  a compassionate “extra mile” kind of compassion.

Mark Buchanan in his book, The Holy Wild, shared an excerpt from a letter written by a missionary couple in Brazil:

“Driving through the Christmas traffic, fighting the drizzling rain, I chanced on a four-year-old little girl.  She was wet and cold and shaking.  Her clothes were ragged, her hair was matted, and her nose was running.  She walked between the cars at the stoplight, washing headlights because she was too short to wash windshields.  A few gave her coins, others honked at her to get away from their vehicles.

As I drove away only some fifty cents poorer, I raged at God for the injustice in the world that allowed the situation.  “God, how could you stand by, helpless?”  Later that evening, God came to me softly with that still small voice and responded not in like kind to my rage, but with tenderness, “I have done something.  I created you.”  (The Holy Wild, pp.  86-87.)

God hasn’t moved the finish line.  The finish line is Christ-like character.  And every crisis is another chance to grow in His grace.

Count it ALL Joy

James 1:2

It has been said that joy is to be the hallmark of the believer.  But I believe it is to be a sappy “Hallmark greeting card” kind of joy.  As Lewis Smedes once remarked:  “If our joy is honest joy, it must somehow be congruous with human tragedy.  This is the test of joy’s intregrity:  is it compatible with pain?…”
Now I believe in living authentically.  When we hurt, we hurt.  But if we really feel the joy of Jesus inside, we need to tell our face to reflect that… even in the most trying of times.

Early in the 20th Century a man named Alexander Grigolia immigrated from Soviet Georgia to the US.   He quickly learned the language, got an education (3 doctoral degrees) and a successful career as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  Yet despite his success, he lacked a true joy in his heart.  Robert J. Morgan tells the story of how one day he encountered joy in the face of a shoeshine boy.

While getting a shoeshine, he noticed the boy was working with joy as he scrubbed his shoes.  He continued diligently in his task smiling and laughing.  Finally Dr. Grigolia could stand it no longer.  He said: “Why are you always you so happy?”

Looking up, the bootblack paused and replied, “Jesus.  He loves me.  He died so God could forgive my badness.  He makes me happy.”

The professor snapped his newpaper back in front on his face, and the shoeshine boy went back to work.

Morgan remarks:  “But Dr. Grigola never escaped those words, and they brought him eventually to the Savior.  He later became a professor of anthropology at Wheaton College, and taught, among others, a young student named Billy Graham. ”

James says:  “Count it ALL joy.”  Not just the Hallmark moments, but every single moment.  That is the witness guaranteed to catch the attention of the joyless.